The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday September 26th

Campus President's Council discusses UNC COVID-19 policies in emergency meeting

UNC Student Body President Lamar Richards attends the Board of Trustees meeting at the Carolina Inn on Thursday May 20, 2021.
Buy Photos UNC Student Body President Lamar Richards attends the Board of Trustees meeting at the Carolina Inn on Thursday May 20, 2021.

The Campus President's Council held an emergency meeting Friday to discuss UNC's COVID-19 policies.

The council, a group of student leaders from across the UNC community, invited campus administrators to the meeting, including Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Bob Blouin. But these leaders did not attend.

Student Body President Lamar Richards called the emergency meeting Thursday. The agenda included discussion of a statement released by UNC Student Government executive board officers titled, "Enough is Enough," in response to the University's COVID-19 policies.

Students, faculty and staff could also sign the statement, and by Friday evening, it had garnered over 250 signatories.

Greear Webb, a junior and one of Richards’ senior advisers, read the statement at the meeting to a room full of students, media personnel, community members and virtual attendees. 

“In response to the continued onslaught of COVID-19 cases and community spread on and off-campus, the value of the safety of the Carolina community — our Carolina — has been used as a prop — as a negotiable — for the self-serving purpose of heightening public-facing institutional 'reputation' and 'integrity,'" the statement said. 

Student speakers echoed the statement’s call for vaccine mandates, increased testing centers and routine testing requirements for all students, faculty and staff. 

Junior Taliajah Vann, president of the Black Student Movement at UNC, said the University’s COVID-19 policies are especially troubling given the rising number of COVID-19 patients in the state’s intensive care units. 

“No return to normalcy is worth the health and safety of our community,” she said. 

Joanne Peters Denny, director of UNC Media Relations, said in an email obtained by The Daily Tar Heel that the meeting "grossly misrepresented" the University’s safety plans.

Peters Denny also said the University’s policies were designed based on the advice of top infectious disease faculty, public health experts, the Orange County Health Department and input from the campus community.

“The Chancellor values student input and will continue to work directly with student leaders in the best interest of the campus, but he will not participate in publicity stunts,” Peters Denny said in the email.

Guskiewicz wrote to Richards Friday morning, saying Richards had invited him and other campus leaders to meet with a small group of student leaders on Aug. 28, according to an email obtained by the DTH. He then said he would not attend Friday's meeting, which he did not know was an emergency meeting until Richards' announcement Thursday night.

"You have misrepresented this meeting to the University campus and me," Guskiewicz said in the email.

Guskiewicz added that Blouin and Dr. Amir Barzin, medical director at UNC Health Virtual Care Services and director of the Carolina Together Testing Program, would not attend the meeting because they were out of town. He also said he and Leah Cox, vice provost for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, planned to attend the original meeting.

"However, your email yesterday — in which you 'slam' my administration — reveals you are more interested in generating publicity than producing meaningful dialogue," Guskiewicz wrote in the Sept. 3 email. "What you described in your email yesterday is now very different from what you originally invited us to participate in with student leaders. As a result, we will not be attending your meeting today."

In the remainder of the email, Guskiewicz said the majority of students favor taking classes in person and living in residence halls. He also said many of the demands in the Student Government statement have already been discussed in public settings, and he encouraged Richards to help students understand what factors led to the University's decisions.

Near the end of the emergency meeting, Richards commented on University leaders’ absence at the event.

“I think today has solidified the belief that leadership means something very simple — it means showing up,” he said. “And I say that as I look at the empty seats of where administration should be, listening to the students, our most central stakeholders here at this University.”

@emilyorland

university@dailytarheel.com

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